Coney Island Siren: what’s in a title?

I was surprised when a few readers have asked me why I entitled my latest novel, Coney Island Siren. The question behind the question is the need for an explanation of why I use the word siren when maybe I wanted to use the word mermaid. That would have made the title Coney Island Mermaid.

The images of mermaids are of beautiful enchanted creatures with the bodies of women with fish-like half bodies and flipping tails. That reminds me of Ariel, the little mermaid. Lovable with beautiful flowing red locks. A mermaid will enchant a sailor to live a life of love and want and desire. A mermaid can enchant a child to love the sea and all the magic it musters. The child can wear a knitted tail and pretend to be stranded on the beach. A mermaid is on the safe side of things.

Ulysses and the Sirens by HJ Draper, 1909

A siren connotes a more dangerous type of sea creature. There are a multitude of myths about sirens. Sirens started out depicted as women with wings- almost angelic. In more modern day folk tales, sirens have tails of fish. Her song enchants sailors and men are doomed to become shipwrecked and stuck in lives they hadn’t ever planned to engage in but he had no choice because of the power of a dangerous woman, in this case- siren. After reading the various tales, that included storied of Persephone and Hades, Odysseus, and others, I decided to go into deep meditation to ascertain how siren really factored into my novel even more than the title.

Odysseus and the Sirens by JW Waterhouse, 1891

As a tool in private practice, my spouse utilizes GIM that is an abbreviation of Bonny Method of Guided Imagery in Music. She casually mentioned that one of the music pieces she uses is Debussy’s Nocturnes: III Sirènes: You can’t make this stuff up. I asked for a session to help me gain clarity on this issue. She’s been using this practice for some time now, but this would be my first session. I went in willingly and came up with a deeper understanding of the weaving of the title and the symbolism of the siren in the case of Maggie and Frank.

No bones about it Coney Island Siren is about domestic violence. Maggie Fuentes and Frank Ramirez dance a perilous and unpredictable dance. There is no way to cut in on their dance. It can only stop when one bows out. Maggie is a nurse and Frank is a police officer. Their days are filled with the sounds of sirens both in police cars and ambulances. That is a mere superficial layer to the title and its connections. There are so many layers to the choice of the title.

The story takes place in Coney Island. That part is easy. They work and live risky lives. Maggie is not portrayed as a victim such as we usually think when a woman is in a partnership where there is intimate partner violence. Maggie takes her chances as she looks for love and anything to fill that god-sized hole in her chest that is empty and in want. Frank and Maggie are intertwined in this dance of the sea. The waves collide and they roll back and forth never quite letting go of each other. It’s a devastating tale but it is their tale.

Frank says, “I’ve even tried to stay clear of you, but I always end up right next to you. I’m powerless when it comes to you. When you’re around, all bets are off.”

Maggie thinks, “His reassurance fed me like a baby and I was finally filled the way I longed to be.”

There are two parts here. Maggie calls to Frank as she sings her song of longing from the sea. Frank leaves his ship to be with Maggie and his life is doomed because he cannot resist her call of longing. That call and acceptance sounds terrorizing for those of us on the outside of this duo as we witness what takes place in their partnering.

In my meditation, I saw that these myths are basic fodder for the belief that men are loathe to give up what they believe is a life without worry or burden. A woman comes along and ensnares them. The men are doomed to live without the ability to go out and plunder other ships, find fool’s gold, or engage in adventures that are assuredly removed from them once they’ve been caught by a siren, I mean, woman. The woman’s objective of creating and procreating are looked at as an anchor that forces men to a terrible fate. Women are frequently blamed for being the downfall of men in our country and often even worse in other countries. These understanding and knowing of these connections became deeply powerful in my GIM session. There is also the expansion of a feeling of joy within me as I begin to learn more about my writings after the fact. I often share that my writings are mere channelings from the characters who ask that their stories be told. I, like you readers, learn more about the stories as I read and live with them.

My daily truth is that I sit with women who have left violent relationships, but frequently return to the people who have harmed them. I often hear health providers say that they much prefer to work with men because women are so complicated. That women are troublemakers and dangerous. Like sirens would you say? We’ve got a long way to go until we as humans stop blaming women for men’s unhappiness, lack of success, or being saddled where they don’t want to be. Maggie and Frank just happen to be a heterosexual cis-gendered couple. These violent relationships are also frequent in same sex, non-binary couples too. I’m not meaning to leave them out of this discussion, but we are talking about this particular novel here.

The answer to why I chose to use the term siren is a complicated one. Any explanation seems simplistic. I haven’t blamed the woman, Maggie, inadvertently, by naming the book Coney Island Siren. It’s time that we, as humans, begin to understand the severity of these tales towards women. Couple dance their dances. I can try to stop the music. I can try to cut in and tap one on the shoulder. At some point, one may look up and decide to make a break in their actions. Maybe with enough light on these situations, one will walk away.

I am sure that this topic will be continued. Until then!

Coney Island Siren, 2019, Theresa Varela

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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading -Health/Salud

Centered, grounded, and at peace, I shuffled Graciella’s oracle deck and asked what message is it that she wants us to receive this week. I have to admit that I was imagining images of celebrations, toasts, and other such holiday festivities. Instead, I pulled the Health/Salud card.

Graciella doesn’t caution us against joining in the season’s merrymaking. She is reminding us to take care of each aspect of ourselves that together creates our well-being. Health maintenance is different for each of us. Who of us finally have the week off for the holiday and we end up taking to our beds in exhaustion? I hear teachers complaining constantly of getting colds and other germy-germ maladies that they say are unavoidable because of the kiddies who share little bacterium with each other. There has to be someway to deter the illnesses.

Handwashing? Vitamin C? The B Vitamins? Maybe it’s a low thyroid function or allergy that is to be blamed. Go in deep. Ask your provider. What is it? There comes a time that we must assess our practices and get an objective point-of-view on what’s really happening.

Graciella speaks; I channel her words and sentiment- Theresa

It may not be that a person is generally immuno-suppressed. It may be a depression that keeps us on the dysphoric and sickly side. Social anxiety in the time of wassailing can knock us off our feet. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is what. I do know that I cannot heal myself. If I could, I would be in perfect health all the time.

Is my heart hurting? Am I in chronic grief? Is that why I’m lying in bed with the curtains drawn against the sun’s healing rays? The holiday season began for many of us, not all, in November on the Thanksgiving holiday. Overeating, overdrinking, overdoing it with family members who are separate most of the year for good reason may be the culprits of why by now some of us are ready to collapse in exhaustion.

Take some time to unplug, meditate, take a leisurely or brisk walk, or decide to go to the gym as usual before going to a planned affair. We get out of our patterns at holiday time. We can become harried, sad, rushed, annoyed, and our managers remind us that we should have asked for the two days after Christmas off in July. Oops, yes, that too.

Be as kind to yourself as you are to the adult or children that you combed the entire couple of square acres of Herald Square in search of the right gift. Give yourself love, pampering, vitamin C, clean white sheets on your comfy bed, and a hug before you go to bed and again when you wake up. Remind yourself how much you love you.

XO

Theresa and Graciella

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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

This image is quite apropos to the parties we anticipate in some way this coming pre-holiday week. Are you going to the office gala? Are you the toast of the ball? Or are there others behind the scenes who are twittering about your self-imposed glory? The answer may be yes to both scenarios. The image of the woman walking down the grand staircase may signify so many things. There is the beauty of self apparent in her dress, her demeanor, and her carriage. She holds herself away from the other women and the men seem to be toasting her.

I wonder about this position of self. It seems quite wonderful to be toasted. But is her bearing one that can be sustained? We all like to be the belle of the ball. Everyone’s head turns as we sweep majestically down the stairs. Our champagne glasses are replaced or filled as quickly as they are emptied.

I note the women that stand above her on the landing are wearing dresses that are similar in brightness and style. What separates our heroine from the others? The hands of one woman seem to be in a position of despair. One woman moves forward while the others are left behind. The scenario can be quite different though. It is possible that our lady in red, a color of passion, daring, and fire is actually leading the way for the others to follow.

Heed the caution of this card. Separating from one’s herd may be needed in order to fulfill goals and dreams, as long they are not false ideas and wouldn’t be beneficial to one’s good. Are you ready to separate? Those who are not part of the herd are usually the first ones to be picked off by predators. Reflect on your true status before taking on your daring venture.

It might be wise to fill your glass with milk. Nurture yourself. Fill yourself with knowledge about your actions prior to taking them. The results may be up to you.

Happy week before the holidays. Take some time to rest, relax, and recover!

XO

Theresa and Graciella

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December’s Full Cold Moon

image from DailyMail

The moon is bright in the sky. We look to her for assurance that our romantic desires will be fulfilled. That our notions of a hot cider drink in front of the fire with a love interest will come to fruition. That the scenes we watch on television or in the latest Christmas movie will be scenes that are ours.

While those might be our dreams, we are made of more. Our visions have the ability to encompass many things that we might be too fearful to hope or pray for. But we should anyway. Tonight at the time of the Full Cold Moon, let us desire more for ourselves. Let us look at the work that we have done from our last full moon, the one waned until the sky was dark, and we had to look within our hearts for light. Upon reflecting at what we found deep within, we can now, in true honesty, look outward for the manifestation at this time of moonlight what we worked hard for. Dreaming does not create the explication of the implicate. Action does. It is our everyday practice that becomes material, physical, real.

The full moon shows her full light tonight, as do you. It is the end of the calendar year. The end of a decade. What dreams have come true for you in this last year? What dreams do you have for the coming year? The coming decade? As we head into winter deep, take time to revisit your promise to yourself. Remember that opportunities are headed your way. Be true to yourself as you create your vision. December’s Full Cold Moon is here to help you see yourself as you truly are and to light your way during the darkest nights.

image from youtube
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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

Graciella la Gitana Oracle © The Fortune Teller- La Adivinadora

Click on the pic to purchase a Graciella la Gitana Oracle deck for yourself or a friend

The large black dog sitting toward the rear of this card image appears friendly, relaxed, and, to me tonight, wise. He knows that everything is going to be all right. There is fear in the face of the woman querying the hidden reader. I’ve thought in the past that the woman in white is the fortune teller, today I see it differently. Or maybe not so differently, but she is definitely getting a reading.

The message is that no matter how expert you may be in whatever your work, your craft, or your belief systems, there is always room to ask for outside help. None of us know everything. There is always outside information that can augment what we already know. Sometimes ego gets in the way and we are loathe to seek outside counsel. There are remedies for our ailments and solutions for our problems.

Graciella speaks; I channel her words and sentiment- Theresa

Bones, shells, water, tarot, oracles, and palms are merely a few of the tools from which we may receive information. Don’t be afraid to show your vulnerabilities and to ask for help in whatever your situation. We humans are here to interact and transact with each other in this marketplace of life. Giving and receiving allows for equity and balance.

No one of us is too big to ask for a kindness.

XO

Theresa and Graciella

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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading

Kindness/Caridad

When shuffling the cards for this reading, this one fell out of the deck. It
wanted to show itself. The concept is so eager to take its place in the front
of the room this week. I replaced the card back in the deck, finished
shuffling, and centered thoroughly while asking Graciella to share her message.
Again, the Kindness/Caridad card came shining through.

Graciella speaks; I channel her words and sentiment- Theresa

I find myself calling this card the Compassion card. The image is lovely and
shows hands reaching out holding a beautiful flower. Is the person holding the
flower extending or receiving the gift of kindness? Just like the dark blue
waters with frothy edges, filled with the tender pink shells reflecting the
stars of the Mother, the tides ebb and flow. Give and receive. Allow yourself
both this week as most of us return to the public after a long Thanksgiving
weekend. Maybe you’ve worked hard contending with consumers during these last
few days that are focused on shopping, shopping, and more shopping! Maybe, you
will be the one to stay home during the week, putting your feet up, or taking a
bath filled with lavender salts. It’s possible that the holiday wasn’t kind,
and you’ve dealt with grief, loss, or the bad tempers of those around you.

Whether you’re in a place of inner peace or not, the message is to be kind to yourself and the two-legged and the four-legged creations who you meet this
week. And to those who fly and crawl and swim for that matter. Isn’t that a
simple message? Yes, on the surface, but not so easy when we encounter
different energies that may not resonate with ours.

By not judging, criticizing, and pointing out what we perceive as others’ faults, we can enjoy the overall message of Graciella’s work that is about walking in Compassionate Consciousness on this Earth. Try doing that with yourself as the focus and you may find that is a challenge too. Many of us have incorporated the messages that I’m not good enough, I will never succeed, or I have no value. Turn that kindness in toward your heart and practice saying I am good enough, I am made of love, I deserve to be loved, I am a light beam that my HP put on this Earth to shine. How does that feel? Do you believe those words?

My karate teacher, Sensei Ted Pritchard, use to tell us that “You are who you practice to be.” I believed those words years ago and still believe them today. I use them in a different context, but they are true today as well. Turn the light of kindness in toward yourself and see how the glow emanates from you towards the those in your life. What a beautiful brightness we see!

XO

Theresa and Graciella

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¡Comité Noviembre!

Every year I want to write a blog post about the most enjoyable event of the year for Puerto Rican Artists and Authors. The formal name is National Puerto Rican Artisans Fair and Book Expo. I think. It’s brought to us by PRIDA Puerto Rican Institute for the Development of the Arts. The event takes place annually at Hostos Community College on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. It’s an amazing way to begin holiday shopping for our loved ones and for the authors and artists to showcase their work in what otherwise proves to be a great challenge in New York City.

Luis Cordero, Olga Ayala, Teresa A. Santiago and Yadhira Gonzalez work tirelessly to make this an outstanding event. There are countless others, especially volunteers, who are involved, so be sure to look at the link I’ll provide at the bottom of this page for PRIDA so you can know all about it and how it transpires.

I haven’t made it to the workshops where participants learn to dance Bomba with Milteri Tucker, making of Vejigante masks by Felipe Rangel, or the children’s workshop with Teresa A. Santiago who tells the Story of the Three Kings. I’m stationed at my shared table and usually spend a few minutes at the mic reading from one of my latest novels.

Here are some photos that my spouse, Patricia Dornelles, and I took of friends, old and new, who stopped by our table and of some of the products we had on had this year. Every year is a new event with different items and books that we’ve created over the past twelve months.

Me, Theresa Varela, and a table full of creativity
Patricia Dornelles and Gloria Rodriguez


Graciella’s oracle and Pat’s photo creativity
Ella Santos and me
A new friend and me
Me, Pat Dornelles, Manuel Melendez, and Maria Aponte
Latanya DeVaughn, Manual Melendez, and me

I ‘m already anticipating next year’s event. I hope you will be there too!

Happy Thanksgiving!

PRIDA: https://www.prida.org/

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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading- Star/Estrella

Graciella la Gitana Oracle Star card

The last couple of weeks, Graciella has reminded us to give back to the Earth for all that it gives us. We are abundant with resources, yet in many areas we take advantage of them, feel that we are entitled for the good of the Earth, and watch its decline in growth in not only vegetation but in love and compassion for each other. I, for sure, thought this would be the message again for this Thanksgiving week. No. Graciella had other messages for us today. When we pulled the card from the deck, lo and behold, it was the Star/Estrella card.

The description of the meaning speaks to the randomness of thoughts and the chaos that is afoot. We are scattered beings and are encouraged to find order in the patterns in which we live. Granted, we’re not often expecting relatives and friends the day after humpday. We’ve worked a few days and have managed to go food shopping and to begin some food prep. We prepare for upheaval.

The image on the card shows the female leaving an estate, dressed in finery, her expression is sad, and due to her position she is missing the beauty of the shooting star. These stars aren’t seen frequently in the city due to light and air pollution. Although there is chaos in the air, the constellation of stars assures us that there is a rhythm and order to our lives. We are encouraged to follow the order. Have you become acquainted with your astrological birth chart yet? Do you know your rising sign and moon sign as well as your sun sign? Get to know the patterns that can create a stabilizing force for us as the ups and downs of our times can make things seemingly unconquerable.

While you are a star, remember that the sky is filled with other stars. Shine your shine this week while allowing others to shine theirs too. Family get-togethers are perfect opportunities to share the spotlight. We are all worthy, whether we agree or not with others’ thoughts and actions.

Be one star in the sky. Together we create a magnificent constellation.

XO

Graciella and Theresa

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Reading Playing Cards

I’m like a kid in an old-fashioned Candy Shoppe. Now that I think about it, this morning I pulled my daily Graciella la Gitana Oracle card and drew the Rascal. I wondered how it would show itself today. I’m that kid that’s playing with a new toy. In this case it’s regular playing cards.

Bicycle playing cards

Early this morning as I was writing my second Daisy mystery novel pages, I had the inclination to pull a card for Daisy, my protagonist, who you know is learning to develop her intuition in working with tarot decks, attending misas, meditating, and doing all those things to grow spiritually. She and her beau, David Rodriguez or Rod as he’s called by his friends, decided to pull one to gain insight into their relationship. So picture Daisy closing her eyes and grabbing a deck from her basket filled with tarot decks and oracle sets. Surprisingly, she comes up with regular playing cards. She doesn’t remember putting them in there. Although she’s had the cards a long time, a large part of her life has been in a blackout. She doesn’t remember all the details of her life. Only most of them. The important ones. We hope.

Anyway, I have the decks in my basket and pull them for my protagonist when I write those types of scenes and the cards inform how the story line develops. I also did that for Covering the Sun with My Hand, my first novel. Julia Acevedo received some intense readings from Ana, the Espiritista.

I read the eight of diamonds- the card that emerged from the deck. You’ll have to read the book when it’s published in order to know how I interpreted the cards, but I felt very comfortable reading the symbols and numbers and interpreting them for Daisy and Rod. Such a cool way to spend my early morning hours. Reading and writing. The best!

If you’re interested in reading Daisy’s first mystery, I’m adding the link here for either soft copy or Kindle. Just click on the image of the book below and I’m adding some links that seem interesting in learning how to read a playing card deck. I will be continuing to use them comparing my own intuitions with the what I read on various websites. Also don’t forget Comité Noviembre is Saturday at Hostos Community College. See you there!

Links to Reading with Playing Card Decks. I’m still checking these out while I formulate my own ideas.

https://exemplore.com/fortune-divination/List-of-Playing-Card-Tarot-Meanings

http://www.lunalunamagazine.com/dark/read-tarot-with-a-simple-deck-of-playing-cards

See you Saturday!

XO

Theresa

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Graciella la Gitana Oracle © Weekly Reading- Earth/Tierra

Earth/Tierra

This isn’t a mirage. You’re right. You’ve just seen this card during this past week’s reading. It’s so interesting when Graciella repeats a reading. I wonder what we missed last week in the reading. Probably nothing at all. Sometimes we need to revisit a concept. Life is like that. Nothing is ever done and over with. Maybe some things are, like graduating from high school and never having to do that again. But we usually revisit things repeatedly, albeit in a different form.

What haven’t we spoken about? The message is truly about giving thanks to the Earth for all that She does for us. The image on the card depicts pouring libations, offering coins, or a piece of fruit to the Earth. When we do so we do it with joy and thankfulness for the gifts that it has rendered us. Thanksgiving is coming in a few weeks. I’m grateful each and everyday. This season, for me, brings nostalgia and the grief train is back in the station. All aboard! This year it will be twenty years since my Mom crossed over. Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday. She crossed over when she was fifteen and I was eleven. Awful. I still have memories of her birthday parties and dancing to Mash Potato Time! I miss her terribly. I think of my Dad who crossed over last January. Last Thanksgiving we took him to a restaurant for a pancake brunch. We totally enjoyed it. This is my first holiday season without him. He was my longest relationship. He knew me from birth! I miss him and have visions of his grace as his energy was waning. I still have relationship with the three of them and also have gratitude for the vivid memories of each singly and together.

This post isn’t really about grief and loss. It’s about giving thanks for the abundance we’re provided with in this lifetime. Instead of complaining about what we don’t have or wishing for what we’d like to have, or being upset with the way things are on the planet, we can give thanks for what there is. Keep it real. Maybe there is illness, but there is life and hope. Maybe situational events aren’t exactly as we’d wish them to be, but we can find something to thank the Earth for this week.

We’re gifted with people who love us, an employer who supports our returning to school, a friend who tell us that we have a piece of lettuce stuck in our teeth. Take a moment each day this week to give thanks for something or someone in your life. Say your thanks out loud. Make sure that they are aware that you are grateful for them. Let’s see how we feel on Thanksgiving day, next week, after engaging in this practice. Graciella and I would love to hear your exoerience. Leave a comment.

Thank you! We appreciate that you visit Graciella’s page.

With love,

Graciella and Theresa

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